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The Morning Vertical, August 5, 2016


So-called "active measures" -- the use of deception, diversion, and deceit to divide and confuse Western societies -- have long been part of the Kremlin's international playbook.

During the Cold War, for example, the Soviet Union regularly used front groups to stage anti-American demonstrations in Western Europe. Moscow also planted stories suggesting -- among other things -- that the United States used chemical weapons in the Korean War, that the moon landing was a hoax, that AIDS was an invention of the CIA, that the Jonestown massacre was carried out by U.S. intelligence, and the United States tried to kill Pope John Paul II.

In recent years, Vladimir Putin's Kremlin has revived and escalated this tactic -- and updated it for the digital age. The infamous Lisa case in Germany and the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee's servers in the United States are the most recent examples.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, which will be online later in the day, we'll look closely at Russia's active measures and their effectiveness -- or ineffectiveness. Joining me are co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior policy fellow at the Czech Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and veteran Kremlin-watcher Donald Jensen, a former U.S. State Department official and currently a fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in the Nitze School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Be sure to tune in.


An international sports court has opened the door to Russian athletes seeking to overcome doping bans at the Rio Olympics by ruling that an International Olympic Committee ban on athletes for past doping offenses is unenforceable.

All 11 Russian boxers who qualified for the Rio Olympics have been given the all clear to compete at the games.

Police in Rio de Janeiro say a Russian diplomat who was the victim of an attempted robbery near the Olympic Park shot the assailant dead, but the Russian Embassy has denied its employees were involved.

Russia's Interior Ministry is proposing that the newly formed National Guard to help collect debts and seize assets from debtors.

Four men who are said to be members of the Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir have been sentenced to eight years in prison in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk.

A Russian Orthodox parish in Vienna has reportedly sued the makers of Pokemon Go.


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical blog post -- A Troll With A Cause -- looks at the recent uptick in the Kremlin's "active measures" campaign against the West, and what is driving it.


Managing the Unmanageable

Political analysts Tatyana Stanovaya has a piece in looking at Vladimir Putin's difficulties in managing Russia's ruling elite.

"Putin has managed to build a political regime based on a loyal parliament, parties, and obedient governors. The foundation of the system seems solid and indestructible. But as soon as the question arises of managing and balancing power within the elite, the failures begin," Stanovaya wrote.

The Security State

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky takes a look at Putin's changing relationship with his inner circle.

"In recent weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is known for his loyalty to longtime associates, has left some of his friends vulnerable to attack. This is a new stage of Putin's rule: He now can only trust his security apparatus -- and not even all of it," Bershidsky writes.

"Putin has always liked to appoint security professionals to every kind of government job: He trusts people with a background similar to his own. The new crop of appointments, however, is not about his Soviet-era friendships and alliances: It's strictly about service in a system that perceives itself as a besieged fortress. It's a security state increasingly run by state security."

Access Denied

Euromaidan Press has a piece on how pro-Moscow separatists are attempting to influence media coverage in the Donbas conflict.

"An e-mail dump of a 'DNR Ministry of Information employee reveals how the self-proclaimed Russian-backed statelet in eastern Ukraine denied accreditation to disloyal journalists and influenced materials of loyal ones," Euromaidan Press writes.

Life During Wartime

Photojournalist Nigina Beroyeva went to the separatist-controlled areas in Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast and produced a lengthy piece on the life of ordinary residents for Meduza.

Disinformation, Then and Now

The Sydney Morning Herald has an analysis arguing that Russia is much better at fighting the information war than the Soviet Union was.

The Strongman Club

In a column for Project Syndicate, Nina Khruscheva looks at the similar tactics used, and dangers faced, by Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Wash Cycle In Moldova

Forbes has an extensive report on "how Russia turned Moldova into a hotbed of money laundering."

A Bit of Self-Promotion

I will be appearing on this week's edition of Hromadske Radio's Ukraine Calling podcast, joining host Marta Dyczok and Kyiv Mohyla University professor Oleksiy Haran to discuss the conflict in the Donbas. It will be online later today. Just follow this link.

And In The Odd News Department…

Police in a Moscow suburb arrested a woman for using a public toilet for too long.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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